Year Of Release: 1992
Running Time: 97 minutes
DVD Released By: Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Writing Credits: Screenplay by Stephen Sinclair, Frances Walsh and Peter Jackson.
Based on a story by Stephen Sinclair.
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin
1. Lionel has something hideous locked in his cellar... It's his family!
2. Some things won’t stay down…even after they die.
Review Date: 10.10.04 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "10,000 Buckets of Blood"
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Lionel Cosgrove – A real nice guy, but sadly he could be the poster child for mama’s boys everywhere because he is so accustomed to instantly obeying his mother and is so dependent upon her, he doesn’t seem able to carve out a life for himself...until mom becomes a zombie.
Vera Cosgrove – Meet the most self-centered, domineering mother ever. If ever there was a woman who absolutely excelled at the guilt trip, it's Vera. She rules over Lionel’s life with an iron grip, deciding every little thing for him and pitching a fit when things don't go her way.
Paquita Maria Sanchez – Her family runs a small grocery store. She is desperately looking for her one true love, and when I say desperate I mean that had things gone on any longer the way they were, she would have probably taken out an ad in the local newspaper in hopes of finding a hubby.
Uncle Les – This guy is the epitome of the term slimeball. He shows up for Vera’s funeral and quickly starts looking for a way to profit from her demise. Once he learns that Lionel is the sole beneficiary, he begins snooping around the house looking for anything to hold over his nephew's head.
Nurse McTavish – She attends to the sick Vera, trying to help her recover from the Rat Monkey bite. She’s also the first person killed by Vera when she reanimates as a zombie a few seconds after dying. After she is dead, she does the nasty (and it really is nasty) with another zombie.
Void – As part of a greaser-like gang, he no doubt thinks “Void” is a cool name to go by. What an ass! I hate people who hide behind made-up names like that. It’s so chickenshit and pretentious. The next thing you know, he’ll be opening up his own B-movie review website under such a fictitious name.
Father McGruder – Don’t let the priestly attire fool you for a second…he happens to be quite lethal when he wants to be. He’s a martial arts expert who unleashes his skills on a pack of zombies before becoming one himself. Soon after he starts eyeing the equally dead Nurse McTavish.
Baby Selwyn – The offspring resulting from McTavish and McGruder’s unexpected sexfest. Usually the results of such actions don't arrive for nine months. However, here it is just a number of hours before the little bundle of putrefying shit known as Selwyn appears on the scene.
Plot Hold your cursor over an image for
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The film opens with two men racing down a narrow gorge, awkwardly carrying a bamboo cage between them. Some text overlaid onscreen informs us that this is Skull Island, Southwest of Sumatra and that the year is 1957. Let me begin by digressing just a wee bit for a moment. Yes, Skull Island is where King Kong hailed from and yes, Peter Jackson, who directed this film, is currently prepping his Kong remake. Coincidence? I think not. It would seem Jackson has had Kong on the brain for some time. Indeed, he claims that it was seeing the original 1933 version that sparked his interest in becoming a filmmaker.
Anyway these two guys are hoofing it through the rocky terrain and it is made quite obvious that the local tribe has people in hot pursuit. The man bringing up the rear appears to be native to the overall region himself, even if he doesn’t call Skull Island home. He begins to exhort the man in the lead to leave the cage behind, because whatever is inside is “evil.” Seems good enough reason to you, right? I mean, when ever has a local who begins carrying on about evil and bad juju led anyone astray? No one ever listens to them, but they’re usually right. Well, his companion is no different. He’s a New Zealand Zoo Official and after they drop the cage and the other man, who obviously has been acting as his guide, launches into another round of “lets leave it behind,” “it's evil” and “it's worse than Yanni” (ok, I made that last one up…we all know nothing could possibly be worse than Yanni) he dismisses his worries by saying “it’s only a bloody monkey” and threatens to not pay him if he doesn’t get his butt into gear.
No sooner is that said than a horde of natives descend on the pair, replete with all the cliché native attire: face and body paint, bones and skulls liberally used to accent their loincloths and the predictable long, pointy and extremely sharp objects. They seem quite put out for some reason and when the Zoo Official asks his guide what the Chief is blathering on about, the guide informs him that the native leader is demanding the “Rat Monkey” be left behind, the two of them must leave the valley and never return or the evil spirits will exact their revenge. Ok, is it just me, but do evil spirits ever do anything else BUT exact revenge? I thought not.
Zoo Guy pulls out a permit and waves it in the natives’ faces, as if the threat of legal action had any weight in these parts. When that fails to impress the locals (they just rip it to shreds), he uncovers a machine gun, fires a few rounds in the air to scare off the tribesmen, grabs the cage containing the “Rat Monkey” and begins running like hell, his guide quickly joining him. Within seconds, the Tribe is back in pursuit and certainly permits, writs or any other documentation are not going to deter them this time.
There is a brief chase through the narrow gorge and soon enough the two fleeing men break into a wider valley where two other guys are guarding a jeep. These two are also native to the region and are probably the other two-thirds of Zoo Guy’s guide troop. They quickly get the jeep started, just in time for Zoo Guy to come running along, throw the cage on board and haul himself on as well. The jeep takes off before the first guide can get on, and Zoo Guy yells at the other two to keep driving. The Jeep hits a few bumps, which causes Zoo Guy to lose his grip on the cage, and it brushes up against him – the Rat Monkey inside managing to bite and scratch him as it does so. This bump also slows the jeep enough so that the first guide manages to catch up and climb on board. Given the distance shown between the jeep and the guy left behind, he is either a marathon runner of Olympic potential, or hitting the bump some how slowed time down, allowing him to catch up. Soon, the jeep has out distanced the Tribesmen, who give up their pursuit.
However, all is not well. When the three guides realize that Zoo Guy has been bitten on the hand by the Rat Monkey, they freak out, bring the jeep to a crashing halt and kick Zoo Guy out onto the ground. “You’ve got the bite,” one of them intones ominously. Zoo Guy announces that there is some sort of disinfectant in the jeep, but these guys have another solution in mind: while his companions forcibly hold Zoo Guy down, the first guide produces a crude axe and quickly chops off Zoo Guy’s hand, blood flowing everywhere. While Zoo Guy screams and writhes around on the ground, one guide notices a second bite on his other arm. CHOP! That arm gets whacked off, too. More blood, more screaming. Then all three notice a scratch on Zoo Guy’s head. The axe descends, Zoo Guy screams, we hear a loud squishy splat and – the opening credits roll.
As the credits unfold, we are treated to a series of scenes that show the Rat Monkey’s trip from Sumatra to New Zealand. Two of the guides, despite having killed Zoo Guy, figure they can still cash in on their endeavors and sell the monkey to an official of some sort at the airport. Despite the obvious worry and disapproval shown by the first guide, the cage is then loaded onto a plane. After flying through stormy and then clear skies, the plane arrives in Wellington where a man from the Wellington Zoo is waiting to take custody of the Rat Monkey. He places the cage onto the back of his truck and as he makes his way through town to the zoo, he passes a small grocery store on one street corner. The camera zooms in and our story begins.
The store is one of those privately own “Mom and Pop” stores that have nearly vanished in our own age, having been replaced by chains of 7-11 type convenience stores, but in this earlier era, establishments such as this one thrived. Inside, working the cash register is Paquita, whose family owns the place. Roger, a handsome deliveryman, arrives to drop off some goods and Paquita begins making goo-goo eyes towards him, sighing like a schoolgirl and even going as far as removing her sweater so she can show off more skin. As a male, let me be perfectly frank about such a move on her part – that always works. Always. At first Roger doesn’t seem to notice, but then he comments on her dress, even reaching out and adjusting a strap that had slipped. He says his goodbye and exits.
After Roger leaves, Paquita’s grandmother (at least I think it is her grandmother – it’s some really, really old woman) takes notice of her longing gaze directed at Roger. She takes Paquita into the back and hauls out her Tarot deck, to determine if Roger is the one for her. Alas, the signs point to Roger not being that one special person, but they do give some hints on who Paquita’s great love will be. Paquita’s grandmother goes on about a great romance that will last forever, but Paquita’s father – who is seated nearby, eating with all the refinement of Jabba the Hutt after a week-long fast and who looks like he just woke up from the mother of all hangovers, is more concerned about what kind of money this mystery man is going to bring to the equation.
It seems whoever this guy is; he will be entering her life quite soon and the two will be romantically entangled almost immediately. Paquita asks who this man is and her grandmother answers by saying she will recognize him by the symbol of the star and the moon (one Tarot card shows a star and crescent-shaped moon). Paquita notices another card that her grandmother had laid out, this one labeled “Oppression.” She asks about it but the old woman just dismisses it and gathers up the cards. I will let those of you who are married or have been in committed relationships for years ponder over the various meanings the word “oppression” can have. Me, I know all too well.
A jingling bell out front signals a customer in the store, and after her Father the Slob exhorts her into action, Paquita goes out to see the bumbling Lionel examining a box of soap. She shows nothing but impatience and disdain for him as he drops off a grocery order, that is until the klutz manages to knock over a cup of pens and a box of black licorice. When Paquita sees that the pens and candy have formed a pattern eerily similar to the Star and Moon card, her demeanor does a complete 180 and she starts giving Lionel a weird look. Socially inept, he becomes unnerved and beats a hasty retreat as she approaches him, backing out of the store and nearly getting run down by a passing trolley. As Paquita watches and smiles, he manages to pull himself onto the trolley as it rolls on down the street.
Lionel eventually disembarks and heads for home, which in this case turns out to be a big house at the top of a hill, and before he can even get in the door, the voice of his mother can be heard, insistently calling his name. Hell, she could be heard quite distinctly while he was still at the bottom of the hill, but then again, that is usually the case with upset mothers. He rushes in to find his mother Vera brandishing a knife in the kitchen and pitching a fit over a beetle that scuttled out from under the fridge. She quickly gets on his case for not spraying the house for insects and he promises to get on in as soon as possible.
into the next room, she opens an envelope in her hand with the kitchen
knife and learns that she is the Treasurer elect of the WLWL
or The Wellington Ladies Welfare League. The President of the
WLWL will be popping by on Friday to offer congratulations
and Vera suddenly freaks out because to her the house is an utter mess.
Of course, women always think that no matter what. She wants the place
spotless by Friday and begins roaming through the house, assigning a
dozen tasks to her son – polishing the silverware (despite the
fact that he polished it the previous week), shining all the windows,
dusting the entire house, cleaning the drapes, mowing the lawn and who
knows what else. It is at this point where we realize that Vera is a
very domineering mother who is quite accustomed to having everything
go her way, does not abide anyone ruining her plans and is obsessed
with appearances and her perceived social standing in the community.
It is also plain to see at this juncture that Lionel is a giant Mama’s
Boy, obeying her without question and always acquiescing to her demands,
no matter what they may be.
The next day, Lionel gets all spiffed up for his date with Paquita and surreptitiously leaves the house…or so he thinks. His exit is noticed by Vera from an upper story window.
Things seem to be proceeding quite well at the zoo as Lionel and Paquita take in all the sights and we get several shots of them walking around and admiring the animals. Then Lionel gets a glimpse of some water in a pool and zones out, in his mind seeing bright, splashing water with a submerged hand moving about from within. He snaps out of his daze and when Paquita inquires as to what is wrong, he relates the story of how as a child at the beach, he fell from a pier into the water and his father jumped in to save him. As his father was attempting to climb back out of the water, a freak wave came along and swept him out to sea, never to be seen again. Anyone with the slightest sense of functioning vision can see that this particular plot thread is important in some way and is going to make a return appearance.
To help Lionel out of his funk, Paquita takes his hand and pulls him over to see the “cute, little monkeys.” While watching the antics of the monkeys, Paquita plants a kiss on Lionel’s lips. He is a bit surprised, but his natural attraction for her over powers his shyness and they share another kiss, until Lionel gets pelted with an apple core thrown by a monkey. Paquita picks up the core and tosses it back into the cage. The Monkey retrieves it, but before it can launch it a second time, a hand reaches in from the adjoining cage and knocks the monkey senseless before stealing the core. Shocked, Paquita and Lionel look into the cage and we get our first look at what the sign on the outside says is Simian Raticus – the Rat Monkey of Sumatra. It is a beastly little thing, having the body of a monkey, albeit lacking any hair, and the head of a rat – again, with no hair. Huge black eyes and long jagged teeth complete its hideous appearance. Not content with the stolen apple core, it reaches back into the other cage and rips the arm off the first monkey in order to obtain a much more protein-enriched snack. Monkey Jerky! Think of the marketing potential! As the little monster greedily bites into its bloody morsel, the monkeys in surrounding cages begin to go nuts. I don’t blame the little buggers!
Paquita and Lionel are clearly horrified at the Rat Monkey as a zoo worker (the very same one who picked up the Rat Monkey at the airport) arrives to take away the corpse of the dead monkey. He explains to the couple that the vicious Rat Monkeys only come from one island, and as legend has it, are the result of giant rats debarking slave ships in order to have their way with the little tree monkeys of the island. The natives are rumored to use them in their black magic rituals as well (why can’t they ever be used by natives in altruistic cleansing ceremonies?). All this, combined with the blood dripping from the dead primate, is too much for Paquita. She rushes to a bench to sit down. Lionel joins her and throws his arm around her shoulders, holding her close to him.
This is when we see Vera spying on the two from the bushes. She slips on a banana peel and falls back against the cage holding the Rat Monkey, who promptly and viciously bites her on the forearm. She lets out a scream that is heard throughout the entire zoo, and which is instantly recognizable by Lionel. Vera manages to tear free from the Rat Monkey and quickly brings her purse down on it, knocking it down to the ground, its head protruding through the cage bars. Just what the hell do women carry in their purses anyway? Iron bricks? They wield those things like weapons and have been known to drop linebackers with a single swipe. Anyway, Vera steps on the Rat Monkey’s head, smashing its skull (I’m crushing your head!!!) and sending blood, brains and eyeballs squirting out over the pavement. Hilariously, one bystander, despite wincing at the display, is quick enough to get a photo of the incident. Scratch one Simian Raticus – but the damage has been done. Vera is outraged at being bitten and when Paquita offers to help her, the older woman turns on the tears and lays a massive guilt trip on her son, beseeching him to take her home. Naturally, Lionel jumps to obey, leaving a bewildered Paquita behind.
At home, Nurse McTavish drops by to bandage Vera’s arm, promising to be back in couple days to attend to the wound’s dressing before seeing herself out. Not finished with her selfish abuse of her son, Vera now accuses Lionel of deliberately going out of his way to upset her. Lionel capitulates and apologizes, promising that it won’t happen again. This elicits a triumphant smile from Vera, who has gotten her way once again. By this time, I’m sure the audience is pleased that the bossy old broad has been bitten. I sure was.
That night as Lionel prepares for bed, after having tucked his mother in, Paquita calls to him from outside. She has the jacket that he left at the zoo. He frantically tries to quiet her and assures her that he will get the jacket later the next day, but she cannot seem to hear him. He motions for her to climb a ladder that leads to his balcony and then checks out in the hall to see if the noise has woken his mother. When he returns to the window, Paquita is there and seems slightly puzzled by his demeanor. He attempts to apologize for leaving her at the zoo. She inquires about a second date, but he says that it is just not possible. His mother needs him and he doesn’t have the time to spare. She turns to go, but before presenting him with a flower. Displaying an amazing sense of self-determination, he stops her and passionately kisses her. As they embrace, she mumbles to herself the words her grandmother told her at the Tarot reading…something about a romance that lasts forever.
Soon we seem them snuggling in bed. This is intermixed with images of Vera sleeping fitfully, the bite on her arm obviously continuing to impart its deadly legacy, as well as Paquita’s grandmother rifling through her Tarot deck, worried at what she is learning by uncovering cards such as Oppression, Failure, Debauch, Defeat, Sorrow and Death (which also seems to accurately describe the Bush Administration). Everything is culminated in a nasty shot of bloody puss squirting from the wound on Vera’s arm and landing on a nearby photo of her late husband. Yech. We also see Paquita’s grandmother admiring a large necklace made to resemble the moon and stars pattern from the Tarot deck.
The next morning Lionel enters his mother’s room and opens up the drapes, revealing a “beautiful day.” For her part, Vera is even worse, the wound on her arm looking VERY disgusting and weird little pimple-like things appearing on her face and forehead. Placing some newspaper under arm to catch any bloody puss, Lionel is trying to clean the wound when the doorbell suddenly rings. It's Nora Matheson - President of the WLWL, and her husband!! Vera refuses to have them come another day and insists on getting dressed to greet them. As she’s trying to get ready, she tears a large piece of skin right off her cheek, which Lionel uses glue(!) to fix.
The meal is a strange affair. While Nora Matheson blathers on about the WLWL, her husband ignores everything but his plate and Vera just sits there making odd sounds and sounding as if she is the world’s biggest retard or just either learning English (or both) when replying to the questions directed at her. Mr. Matheson finally chimes in and declares that what they need is another war. Vera seems to have developed a strong taste for meat, suddenly grabbing the food from her guest’s plate and chowing down on it, much to the shock of Mrs. Matheson. Lionel doing his best to distract the WLWL president from noticing by giving her some of the beans off his plate, only to have Mr. Matheson volunteer to take some. Mrs. Matheson wants to leave but her hubby insists on staying for dessert. Lionel brings out some custard for the four of them…and things begin going downhill. Vera’s bite wound shoots a thick stream of bloody puss into the Mr. Matheson’s custard. He takes another bite, never knowing the difference. Then Vera’s ear falls from her head into her own custard, only to be eaten by Vera herself a few seconds later. Mrs. Matheson, on the verge of throwing up from witnessing this display, bolts for the door. Her husband complements Lionel on the food and then leaves himself.
Later, Lionel is washing up some bloody footprints in the foyer, no doubt left by Vera as she went upstairs. Paquita arrives with her dog, which runs straight up to the second level. She warns Lionel that dark forces are massing against him, as her grandmother has seen it (that is her grandmother after all!). Before she can go on, a scream and barking from above alert the two to trouble. They run upstairs to discover a very bloody and terrible looking Vera sitting on the floor and no sign of Paquita’s dog. A small bit of fur protruding from Vera’s lips clues Lionel in and as he pulls on it, the dog’s entire tail emerges from Vera’s mouth. She ate Paquita’s dog! Keep in mind that the dog was a German Shepherd and you’ll begin to realize not only how damn hungry Vera must have been, but what a feat she pulled off in eating the dog in such a short time. Paquita is naturally quite horrified.
However, it seems old Vera is still feeling a bit peckish, as she jumps up and attacks Paquita, angling to land a bite on her neck. Lionel tries to pull his mother away and in the scuffle, mother and son barrel through the doorway and tumble down the stairs. Vera seems to lose consciousness and Lionel sends Paquita to fetch Nurse McTavish. The nurse arrives and advises that Vera be taken to the hospital. Paquita rushes upstairs to pack some things. Vera shakes and moans a bit more and then becomes quite still. Nurse McTavish must tell the shocked Lionel that his mother has died.
Lionel is, quite naturally, devastated and begins weeping. McTavish tries to console him, but before she can get too far, Vera’s corpse rises from behind the nurse, grabs her head, inserts her fingers through her cheeks and pulls back so hard, McTavish is nearly decapitated. Tossing the nurse’s body aside (which gushed a veritable fountain of blood when the head came loose), Zombie Vera now closes in on Lionel, displaying superhuman (superzombie?) strength by tossing him around like a rag doll. Lionel bumps into the radio, turning it on. The music covers the sounds of his struggle with Zombie Vera, and Paquita continues to pack upstairs, unaware of what is transpiring below. She calls out to Lionel, asking which toothbrush needs to be packed. He manages to answer her, gasping for breath while being choked by Zombie Vera.
Lionel manages to get away from Zombie Vera and backs away towards the stairs, but now the reanimated corpse of Nurse McTavish is up and about, looking to make of meal of him, too. He pulls an ornament off the wall and launches it through the air like it was a ninja’s throwing star. It lands right in the middle of Zombie McTavish’s forehead. The force of the impact pushes her head back so that flops off her shoulders and hangs down her back, attached by only the thinnest bits of flesh. Lionel now manages to push both zombies into the basement and close the door before Paquita descends the stairs. Lionel tells her that McTavish has already taken mom to the hospital. He turns up the radio to mask the sounds of the zombies stumbling around in the basement and feigns interest in the radio program in order to get Paquita to leave.
After a night of listening to zombies banging around in the basement, the following day he visits a local veterinary clinic to obtain some animal sedatives. The vet sports a heavy German accent and seems more interested in dissecting animals rather than healing them. At first he thinks Lionel is from the immigration office and blabbers on about losing his papers. When Lionel says that all he wants is to buy some sedatives, the vet says he is not a doctor and has no such things. However, he does carry large bottles of liquid tranquilizer, one of which he sells to Lionel.
Lionel returns home where, after piecing together a protective suit made up of pots, pans, goggles, rubber dish gloves and even a Cricket outfit, he ventures into the basement. After tripping and encountering a rat, the zombies attack him, but he manages to stick each one with a needle of tranquilizer – the McTavish Zombie through the eyeball and the Vera Zombie up the nose – putting them out like lights. By this time mom is looking pretty bad, dripping blood and skin.
Another night passes, during which Lionel dreams of splashy water again, this time with a hand and hair in it as well as the face of a screaming woman. When day arrives, he visits Paquita at her family’s store and inquires into the dark forces supposedly massing against him. Her grandmother hauls out those Tarot cards again and indulges in some doom talk, telling him that he is “marked.” Marked for what? Death? Trouble? The Lottery? A quick cut away scene shows us that Zombie Vera has broken out of the basement as well as the house. Paquita’s grandmother now gives Lionel a talisman to protect him from evil…the same one we saw her holding earlier in the film. She says that it contains the power of “The White Light” and that it will protect him. She adds that he should keep it with him at all times. You just know after a statement like this, that he’s gonna end up losing or misplacing it sooner or later. We cut to another brief shot of Zombie Vera stumbling down the street.
Paquita asks about Lionel’s mother and as he’s replying, Zombie Vera comes careening through the front door, having been hit by a trolley in the street. Lionel quickly produces his needle of tranquilizer and puts mom out before she can do any more harm. Trying to maintain the lie about her being in the hospital, he makes a remark about how she must have been discharged early. A crowd from the street now enters to look at the body. At this point, everyone thinks the collision killed Vera and the bloody condition of the body is just the result of her doing a face plant on the front end of the trolley.
We cut now to a graveyard and funeral home where the services for Vera will be held. People are arriving and speaking about the recently departed, including the Mathesons, Father McGruder and the director of the funeral home. Mr. Matheson mentions how they had lunch with Vera just last Friday and how she was the “picture of health.” The director talks about how Lionel has called several times over the last few days, eager to view the remains of his mother, but the director just put him off. We know the reason Lionel wanted this was in order to shoot mom up with more tranquilizer. The director also mentions how its been a particularly tough embalming job before rushing off.
A car then comes screeching to a halt and Vera’s brother, Les emerges. He notices Paquita standing nearby, dressed in black and makes his way over to her. He introduces himself and then tries his best to put the moves on her. However, she is repulsed by him and walks away to find Lionel. With the services about to begin, he is no where to be found and Father McGruder promises to go on without him. However, Lionel is sneaking around the funeral home, trying to get access to Vera’s body in order to administer another dose of tranquilizer. He finds her in the embalming room, where she has been placed on a table and hooked up to a machine straight out of Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory.
He is about to stick her with the needle when voices in the hall alert him, so he hides. The funeral home director enters along with his assistant. We are now treated to a scene that shows just what happens when a body is over filled with embalming fluid. Yuck. Vera’s body begins spraying green shit all over the place, covering the floor, the walls and even a sandwich left nearby. While the director promises that such a mistake will be coming out of the assistant’s wages, the other man giggles, grabs the sandwich and takes a bite! Double yuck. Intent on getting the body to the service, the director uses his fingers to push the protruding eyeballs back into their sockets.
Side note – the funeral home director’s assistant is played by director Peter Jackson. I nearly didn’t recognize him, as I am accustomed to seeing him with longer hair.
The pair haul the body off to the service before Lionel can inject the sedative. While the service is in progress, he makes his way to the secluded room where the casket containing Vera is being held. Vera busts out from within before Lionel can get it open and the pair begin a frantic struggle, which ends when Lionel injects the sedative, but not before crashing through the window and falling to the floor with Vera’s extremely ripe corpse – right in front of the entire assembled crowd. This elicits various reactions – concern from Father McGruder, hysterical laughter from Uncle Les, shock from most of the crowd and disbelief from the funeral home director…who wipes his face with a cloth and smears green embalming fluid (and lord knows what else) all over his face.
Afterwards, Paquita tries to talk to Lionel but he rebuffs her, wanting to be alone. Uncle Les does manage to overhear some people remarking on how Lionel is now the sole beneficiary of Vera’s will and new owner of the entire estate. You just know that greasy bastard is up to no good.
That night Lionel returns to the cemetery to dig up Vera, presumably to make sure she’s disposed of properly. He runs into a group of leather-clad youths who are having a beerfest amongst the headstones. They hassle Lionel and begin to beat him, but all too soon Vera comes flying up through the dirt, grabbing one named Void by the balls (he was pissing on her grave). He is quickly, and of course quite messily, eviscerated before being thrown through the air to land on the others. The rest of the gang tries to flee but Vera catches another and takes a few bites out of him. Two manage to escape, and as they run screaming out of the cemetery, they alert Father McGruder that things are amiss.
Father McGruder runs to aid Lionel, who is now facing three zombies – the two gang members killed by Vera now having reanimated themselves. What follows next is a true classic moment in the annals of not only zombie films, but also horror films in general as Father McGruder proceeds to unleash his martial arts skills on the zombies, proudly yelling that he “kicks ass for the lord.” In a sequence reminiscent of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he reduces one zombie to nothing but a torso via a series of straight and roundhouse kicks. Fortunately, Lionel is able to sedate Vera while all this Zombie-Fu is occurring. Unfortunately, Father McGruder is killed by the Void Zombie – thrown through the air to become impaled on a large statue, but not before being bitten by a flying zombie head in the process. Lionel sedates Void and collapses amongst all the bodies.
So now Lionel has four zombies to look after – Vera, Nurse McTavish, Father McGruder and Void. He has all four confined in the kitchen where he feeds them bowls of something (looks like scrambled eggs…maybe its leftover custard) laced with more tranquilizers. What follows next is a dining room scene that puts all others to shame in the gross out department. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s snake surprise and chilled monkey brains? Tame. The Skeksis gorging themselves in the Dark Crystal? Positively refined. Hell, even Jabba the Hutt looks like a paragon of good table manners and etiquette compared to what transpires here. Suffice it to say that spoons don’t always go in mouths and McTavish’s lid-like head makes for easy placement of food. While this gastronomic nightmare is taking place, the zombies of Nurse McTavish and Father McGruder begin eyeing each other in that way. Yes, folks...the movie is going where you think it will go.
The doorbell rings and Uncle Les arrives to see how Lionel is faring. Lionel doesn’t want him to come in, but Les manages to force his way in, claiming that he has to pee really bad due to a bladder infection. He comments on the stink permeating the house, then enters the bathroom to relive himself with the noisiest piss I have ever heard. He asks Lionel about Paquita and then goes on to state how Vera had promised to include him in her will, but never got around to it. Suddenly a pounding accompanied by moans begins emanating from the kitchen. Les assumes that Lionel has found his dad’s old stag films – including the one “with the donkey and the chamber maid” and Lionel lets him believe just that. Les, figuring that everyone has to mourn in their own way, leaves.
Lionel races back to the kitchen, where we see a sight NO ONE should ever have to see: zombies having sex. Granted, they still have their clothes on and we are spared the sight of all that rotting flesh pressed together in a rhythmic display of zombie love, but it’s the very idea that is disturbing, let alone all the questions that arise from the proceedings. For example, if McGruder is dead and his heart is no longer beating, what is getting all that blood down to you-know-where? Or is it a case of once a stiff, always stiff? In any case, Lionel has to literally tear them apart; half of McGruder’s face being left behind in McTavish’s mouth – who quickly chews it down. Soon all the zombies are in the basement again and the McTavish zombie has a noticeably extended belly. You just know where this is leading, right?
Lionel is on his way to the Nazi Vet to obtain another bottle of tranquilizer. He passes Paquita’s store but tries to hide when she spots him. Reluctantly, he ends their relationship when she confronts him. However, her tears are more than he can stand and he rushes to embrace her. At this point Roger, the delivery guy who Paquita had goo-goo eyes for in the beginning of the film, pulls up. He jumps out and thinking Lionel is bothering Paquita, decks him.
Lionel gets home and upon entering the basement, is confronted by the newly born Baby Selwyn, who has been hunting rats and is now hiding within the radio with his catch. Yes, zombies not only can get knocked up and give birth, but their gestation period is only a matter of hours. Suffice it to say that this kid is downright FUGLY. I’ve seen cuter pieces of horse shit. Not even a mother could love this face…well, unless she was dead, of course.
What follows is simultaneously the most hilarious part of the film and potentially the most disturbing. For some god-only-knows inexplicable reason, Lionel feels the need to bundle baby Selwyn up and take him to the park in a baby carriage. There he tries to emulate the behavior of the other mothers with their infants. Naturally, with a zombie baby, things cannot go smoothly. After a runaway baby carriage crash, Selwyn is thrown free and is off and crawling. And this little fucker can crawl pretty damn fast. Lionel gives chase, but once caught, Selwyn does not want to go back in the carriage and begins to put up a fight. The scene ends with Lionel beating the baby against a swing set, swinging him around in the air, throwing him to the ground and stomping on him – all of this in full view of the mothers nearby. He finally manages to get Selwyn into a sack, and after a few more swift punches, he beats a hasty retreat for home before the women’s dirty looks can get any dirtier. That may have gone unchallenged in 1957, but in today’s world all one has to do is threaten a child with a spanking and a child abuse lawsuit will be leveled against them. Beating the hell out of an infant at the park? That would get you instantly shot! Leaving the park, Lionel sees Paquita out and about with Roger, who is droning on and on and on about some great play he made in a football (soccer) game.
At home, Lionel sees that the basement door has been opened, but all the zombies are still accounted for. It seems good old uncle Les has dropped by again and uncovered his stash of stiffs in the cellar. Have I mentioned how much I hate it when that happens? Lionel attempts to explain, but Les will have none of it. He threatens to call the police and have Lionel arrested for multiple murders, but would be willing to keep quiet if he was given a fair share of his late sister’s estate – in other words, all of it. Lionel gives in and gives Les the house as well as his inheritance money.
He heads downstairs to sedate the zombie gang again (little Selwyn is even tied up with his mother now), but a sudden racket upstairs distracts him and eventually leads to him dropping the bottle of tranquilizer. Heading back up, he discovers that Les has invited a few pals over for a party. A few friends numbering about two dozen. Les tells Lionel that he wants the collection of stiffs buried as soon as possible. Soon the place is rocking and Lionel is forced to play caterer to all the demanding guests. Outside, Paquita and Roger are passing by, the latter droning on and on and on and on again about another sports related accomplishment of his. She notices the music coming from the Cosgrove place at the top of the hill and quickly abandons Roger, who is so absorbed in his story, he doesn’t even notice at first that she’s gone.
Paquita enters and is instantly waylaid by Les, but a quick kick to the balls takes care of him. She hides from him by going downstairs, where she runs into all the zombies. She handles this discovery surprisingly well, recalling the Tarot reading that said “death surrounded” Lionel. She persuades Lionel that all the zombies must be destroyed for good, and helps him inject them one last time with poison before burying the lot in the dirt of the cellar. There is a supremely gross moment here when Lionel, while preparing to give his zombie mom the last injection, gives her putrid, rotting forehead a loving kiss. When he and Paquita once again ascend the stairs, Les confronts them both. He pushes Paquita very hard against the wall when she rebuffs him again, and an enraged Lionel slugs him. Les pushes Lionel back down the cellar stairs and locks the door, then drags Paquita off to “teach her a lesson.” We all know what that means.
In the basement, Lionel makes a startling and quite unwelcome discovery. It seems he neglected to closely examine the poison he used to dispatch the zombies. He finds the bottle and printed on the opposite side of the word “poison” are the words “animal stimulant.” Can we all say a collective “oh, shit!?” No sooner has this revelation been made clear than the ground begins to shake. The dirt floor erupts and disgorges McTavish, Void, McGruder and Selwyn – now all SUPER zombies thanks to the stimulant. Lionel runs like hell up the stairs and begins banging on the door. As luck would have it, a partygoer trying to find the crapper opens the door and lets him out. Lionel quickly shuts and bolts the door, but the SUPER zombies are just too strong and the door is knocked over – the guy trying to find the crapper quickly divested of his entire ribcage (intact, I might add) by Void.
What follows next is a bloodbath/gorefest of truly epic proportions. I doubt gladiator matches in ancient Rome saw this much blood. Hell, there have probably even been much more sanitary wars. From this point on, the blood and guts just do not stop coming, flying at the viewer fast and furious. One can barely digest a bloody and horrific (if not to say curiously and morbidly imaginative) demise before the next is presented. And then the next, and the next and so on. Suffice it to say that the SUPER zombies crash the party. Hey, that almost sounds like a weird movie title – Super Zombies Crash the Beer Party.
In addition to the poor bastard who underwent sudden ribcage removal, the many and varied demises include a man literally having his face lifted right off his skull, a woman having her throat bitten and ripped out, another woman having her guts pulled out, one guy who is stripped of flesh from the waist down and a woman who has Void’s fist emerge from her mouth after being punched in the back of the head.
Lionel locates Paquita in the kitchen, where she just planted another swift kick right between Les’ balls. As zombies reach through the door to grab Lionel, Les chickens out and escapes through the window while Paquita retrieves a small pair of scissors and stabs at the hands grasping Lionel until they have been severed from their owners. That doesn’t stop the hands themselves from still trying to choke him, forcing Lionel to throw them away. Soon most of the guests are dead, but naturally, they don’t stay dead. Before you can say zombie-a-go-go, the house is overflowing with undead. Lionel and Paquita are trapped in the kitchen with zombies trying to get in from all sides.
Lionel and Paquita get separated while Les hauls ass outside to hide in the garden shed. At one point, with zombies closing in on him, Lionel tries to run, but the floor is so slick with blood, he ends up just running in place. His solution? He uses the various body parts strewn about the floor as stepping stones, hopping from one to the next in order to escape. He manages to make it upstairs but Void is close on his heels. Meanwhile, Paquita and another survivor hold up in the kitchen where one zombie is dealt with by smashing it up against a light fixture so hard, the light bulb is now in its skull and causing the entire head to glow like a Fourth of July sparkler. Outside, Les has bolted himself up tight in the shed and is using pliers to extract the Father McGruder Zombie’s teeth.
Upstairs, Lionel has locked himself in the bathroom, but the Void Zombie has made a hole in the door and is crawling through. Lionel takes his foot and stomps on the zombie, pushing it down against the ragged edge of the hole and causing Void’s body to split into two pieces. The top half walks on its hands after him and launches itself through the air to attack him.
Back outside, Les flees from the shed and uses a pair of large shears to fight the zombies, cutting off the top portion of one’s head.
Inside, Lionel is still fighting with the top half of the Void Zombie. They’ve fallen into the bathtub and the struggle has caused a large pile of guts to plop out of Void’s torso. Lionel pushes Void away and the zombie flies across the room to land in the toilet. Lionel attempts to leave the bathroom but the hall is being patrolled by Void’s bottom half, so Lionel decides to climb through a hatch in the ceiling that leads to the attic. However that pile of guts has taken on a life of its own and reaches out to ensnare his foot. Kicking loose, he manages to get into the attic and shut the hatch closed behind him.
As he’s crawling around the attic, Lionel drops the talisman given to him by Paquita’s grandmother. It begins to spin around and eventually points to a nearby chest. Inside Lionel finds old photos of his father and a strange woman. Suddenly his mind is filled with images of splashing water again, this time accompanied by visions of a blonde woman and his father.
Downstairs, baby Selwyn is terrorizing Paquita in the kitchen and through a series pratfalls, ends up flying through the window to hit Les right in the balls. Selwyn gets away and Les is forced to flee from the other zombies trying to get him. He bangs on the kitchen window and is let in by Paquita and the other lone survivor. Les begins to freak out when he notices the other girl has been bitten, sure that she will turn into another zombie. He doesn’t have much time to worry as he forced to help Paquita secure the door from the onslaught of walking dead.
Meanwhile back in the attic, Lionel is going over the pictures of his father and the blonde women when he finds a skeleton in the chest as well. The skeleton still has a few wispy blonde hairs attached to its head. Void’s pile of moving guts now suddenly breaks through the floor to attack him. In the kitchen Les is prepared to use a meat cleaver to dispatch the girl who has been bitten, but is forced to use it on the “lightbulb” zombie, who has come loose from the wall. Lionel is fleeing from the piles of guts and has gotten his foot tangled in a wire running along the attic floor. He falls through the floor and hangs by the wire in the foyer, where all the zombies gather around to see this new meat piñata. His protective talisman falls to the floor out of his reach.
Elsewhere the zombies have busted into the kitchen, where they are greeted by a cutlery-wielding Les. Les goes postal on the zombies and the blood, guts and severed limbs fly. Eventually we see him light up a cigarette as he stands over a mountain of quivering body parts. Paquita and the other girl escape out another door where she sees Lionel hanging in the foyer. She goes to help and in the process inadvertently kicks the talisman across the room. Les is running another zombie through a meat grinder when Selwyn kicks him in the balls. He grabs a meat cleaver and runs after the ugly little spud.
Eventually (after a series of Marx Brothers inspired antics), Lionel gets loose, falls through a window and returns just in time to rescue Paquita and the other girl from a horde of zombies by starting up his lawnmower, holding it up before him and then wading into the crowd. In another classic display of flying body parts and spraying blood, the horde of undead is quickly reduced to pieces. This scenes just goes on and on and on, sure to make an untold amount of people quite queasy. Meanwhile, Les has pursued baby Selwyn into the basement where he encounters SUPER zombie Vera, who promptly rips out his entire spinal cord – his head still attached. He makes his way upstairs to the kitchen where he attacks Paquita and the other girl. Paquita just grabs his extended spine and swinging it like a bat, brings it down on the counter top…splattering his head into paste.
In the foyer, Lionel has also reduced all the zombies to paste, when the Void Zombie appears at the top of the stairs. Not only has he pulled himself out of the toilet, but Void has now gotten his upper half back on top of the lower half, and is awkwardly walking about. He sees Lionel and launches his top half in an attack, landing on the lawn mower blades. Lionel starts it up and Void is soon nothing but bloody paste as well. In the kitchen, the other girl who has so far survived this mess is killed by Selwyn, who literally crawls through her head, pulling her face apart like it was a curtain. The nearby “lightbulb” zombie finally ignites, the fire soon spreading.
When Vera tries to harm Paquita, Lionel warns Vera to not touch her. Now, what follows is one of the most disturbing images I have ever seen. The womb/stomach on the ten-foot Vera zombie opens up and swallows Lionel whole. Yes, you heard me. However, clutching the talisman given to him by Paquita’s grandmother, Lionel forces himself out in a veritable tidal wave of blood. Zombie Vera falls through the roof into the burning house below to be consumed by the flames along with baby Selwyn. Lionel and Paquita slide down a phone line to the ground below.
On the street, Lionel and Paquita embrace as the fire department arrives, finally free to be with each other.
Where does one start when reviewing this film? At first glance people will focus on the blood and guts on display here. And quite honestly, how can one not? This film has been described as the goriest film ever made, and in good old Shadow’s experience, that is quite true. Now, I won’t claim to have seen every gore-filled film in existence, and I will admit to there being quite a few I have not seen, but I have seen a good number and this film certainly tops anything in my experience (EDIT - in the years since I first wrote this review, I've seen plenty of films that gave this one a run for the money in the gore department, most notably several films from the land of the rising sun such as Tokyo Gore Police). Now, gore has never bothered me. Never. I’ve always been the type that could watch an autopsy while eating dinner…and still want seconds. However, I know that there is a significant portion of people out there who can barely stand the sight of blood. If you fall into the latter category, suffice it to say, Dead-Alive is not for you. This film may even test the intestinal fortitude of those who easily digest more “mainstream” gore films – Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween type movies. The entire gore factor from one of those flicks barely registers as five minutes worth in Dead-Alive. I kid you not. So be warned: this film is extremely gory.
At heart this film is a coming of age story…with zombies and gore. While at first glance those two elements may seem like they should be diametrically opposed to one another, in the end product they wind up complimenting each other quite well. The true test of each of those aspects is to ask if the movie would work if it focused solely on one. To me the answer is yes. The movie definitely works as a gore film. Given a subtle makeover and it could easily be played for shock and horror. On the flip side, the story of Lionel coming into his own works just as well, too. Remove the zombies and gore, and what you have left is still a quirky drama with believable – if at times somewhat cartoonish– characters. It’s true that the gore overshadows the human component at times, but I for one do not think the blood and guts would be nearly as effective without that personal drama to back it up.
Despite the violence and ultra gore, the film is centered on some very real people. We all have known people who are like the ones in this movie to some degree or another, so when it comes to the characters, suspension of disbelief is easy and natural. Director Jackson makes sure that the totally unbelievable situations are grounded by some totally believable characters. Vera Cosgrove is the mother from hell. Domineering in the extreme, she will manipulate her son in any way to get what she wants. If that means browbeating him, turning on the guilt or just talking down to him in general, so be it. In truth, she does not love her son. She only loves herself, with her selfishness knowing no bounds. Her happiness at being elected to an important position within the WLWL seems more about how others will now view her rather than how any sense of personal accomplishment or satisfaction will be derived from the situation.
Lionel, at first glance may seem a candidate for the Norman Bates School of smothered sons. Both have to deal with an overbearing mother, and both make a habit of keeping the bodies of their deceased mothers around the house. But where Bates exercised his desire for independence by murdering his mother, Lionel hasn’t reached that point yet…and if his demeanor before things all go to hell is any indication, he may never have done so. While Norman found it difficult to live without his mother’s stabilizing presence and ends up keeping her around to talk to, ultimately taking on her persona to help cope with situations where he would have normally deferred to her judgment, Lionel seems unwilling to let Vera go simply because he loves her, and despite his subtle yearnings for freedom, he keeps her around out of a sense of responsibility. He still tests the waters of total freedom, even when Vera is a zombie locked up in the basement and this shows that despite the initial similarities with Norman Bates, Lionel is by far the more well adjusted of the two. He has just never had the chance to act normal, whereas Norman was never even taught what normal was. It isn’t until the end of the film, when Vera’s secrets come to life, that Lionel realizes just how he’s been lied to all of his life. It is at that point that he finally puts the specter of his mother behind him, and in a literal (and quite disgusting) rebirth, begins his life anew.
The only character that comes up a bit short is Paquita. She seems defined by her desire to find her “one true love”, and while she isn’t anywhere near as annoying or persistent in her inquiries as the Jenny Williams character in The Wolf Man, her ambition does make her a bit one dimensional. She does fare better than her Wolf Man predecessor, however. Williams got munched shortly after her Tarot reading with some gypsies, whereas Paquita receives her Tarot reading from her grandmother and was no worse off than before. Of course, Paquita’s reading had a much happier forecast. One bright spot about Paquita is her total dedication to Lionel. When he pushes her away, she is still there for him. Even when she learns what he has been hiding in the basement, she still sticks with him and fights tooth and nail to save her man from the zombies. What a gal!
words come to mind when contemplating the level of gore in this film:
sensory overload. There is so much gore on display here, especially
in the last half-hour of nearly nonstop carnage, that after a while
the sheer magnitude will either cause you to flee in disgust or begin
to lose its impact. Because of the tone of the film, most of the violence,
despite being ultra graphic, is still very much comedic in nature. This
means that we can be very forgiving at the gore FX. That is not to say
that they are substandard, because they are not…particularly when
it comes to the bloody entrails and innards of the human body that get
thrown about. That happens to be done extremely well. It’s the
zombie make-up and severed limbs that often look a little cheesy, but
like I said, given the film’s tone, that can be overlooked in
the spirit of things. Another outstanding element to the gore FX are
the many inventive deaths we see…again, especially at the end
of the film. They show both a creative flair for achieving them so well
on small budget, as well as a dark and cruel imagination I have not
seen since…well, since me.
In the end, Dead-Alive is a film that B Movie aficionados as well as devoted horror fans will embrace to varying degrees, depending on personal tastes. The average movie goer will most likely be appalled at the gore and find little to redeem the film.
BTW, check out the Japanese movie poster to the right. While that is a fairly accurate representation of baby Selwyn, that hot-looking nurse is in no way similar to the Nurse McTavish of the movie.
Extreme Violence - While there are no gun battles or sword fights, we do have zombies running wild, tearing people limb from limb in all manner of creative ways.
Gore - This film is perhaps the goriest ever made. The blood and guts are displayed constantly throughout the picture, but the last twenty minutes is an almost non-stop bloodbath.
Haunted Houses - The Cosgrove house isn’t haunted, but it sure is creepy looking. A large portion of the film takes place here, and the final zombie rampage is carried out there.
Martial Arts - Only one instance of martial arts in this film, and it is Father McGruder’s hilarious fight with two zombies in a graveyard where he "kicks ass for the lord."
Nudity - Believe me when I tell you that the brief nudity seen in this film is by no means something to look forward to, though it just might haunt you afterwards.
Romance - Who would have ever thought a zombie flick with tons of gore would have a heart warming romance? Well, this film certainly does.
Zombies - What is a zombie film without zombies? While other films may have more zombies, often times numbering in the hundreds, this film is content to feature a couple dozen or so.
Vera guilts Lionel into submission: 3
Deaths: 40 (estimated)
Animal Deaths: 3
Kung-Fu fighting Priests: 1
Times Les is hit in balls: 3
Gallons of blood: Thousands
Zombie sex: 1
100DD Boobs: 2
Severed limbs: dozens
Ambulatory piles of guts: 1
Mins – Hands off, pal!!
Shadow's Drinking Game: Uh...there is no drinking game. This time it's called the vomiting game, where you puke at the sight of all that gore. For those of you who have a cast iron stomach like me, then I offer these rules for a drinking game: every time someone says Lionel's name, take a sip.
for larger image
The zoo keeper explaining the origins of the Rat Monkey.
Zoo Keeper: "Reckon they’re only found on one island, you know. Story goes, these great big rats come scuttling off the slave ships, and raped all the little tree monkeys."
Shadow’s comment: Typical sailors in port…looking for some tail.
Father McGruder taking on the zombies.
Father McGruder: "I kick ass for the lord!!"
Shadow’s comment: Just don’t say no when the collection plate is passed.
||This Film &
I had never even heard of this film until just three or four years ago. Then I started seeing it on the shelves when out hunting for DVDs. I didn’t give it much more than a cursory glance, given the fact that it was a film I knew nothing about. Money was another factor in those days, as I was bouncing between unemployment and one crappy job after another for the better part of two years. I just didn’t have the funds to gamble on an unheard of film. Fast forward to early 2004. At this point I’d been in my current (and good) job for over a year and a half, money was no longer quite the same concern and I had more disposable income to throw away on things such as DVD's. Also, in the interim, I had come to learn that Peter Jackson was the one responsible for this film. Having loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and learning that he had also helmed the enjoyable The Frightners, I was compelled to buy this film at long last. The claim on the DVD cover that it was the goriest film ever made didn’t hurt either. I was intrigued. Although I must admit to being dubious. I really doubted that it would be the goriest flick ever. So, I brought it home and sat down to watch it with The Other Half. Needless to say, I was quite surprised. It was indeed the goriest film I had ever seen. The Other Half agreed, although her take on the film was much different than mine. Suffice it to say that she loathed it and found it stupid beyond belief. When preparing films to review for this site, she will usually watch them with me, even if she has seen them before, to help point out things either of us may have missed the previous time. However, she absolutely refused to watch this one again. I think that says plenty right there. While not embracing the film like I have others, repeated viewings have endeared the film to me.
Shadow's rating: Seven Tombstones